To ensure the EU is on path to sustainable growth the Union must strengthen its innovative potential and use its resources in the best possible way. Public data such as geographical information, statistics, weather data and data from publicly funded research projects are part of these resources.
Currently the situation is rather unsatisfying in that most of this data is still untapped yet the potential for re-use in new products and services could trigger innovation. Economic gains could amount to € 40 billion if this valuable raw material – public data – will become open.
Last week the European Commission proposed to open up public EU documents for increased re-use. This will help to make information held by public administrations more readily available and spur economic growth.
Some sectors are predestined to benefit especially from this new method and improved ease to deal with public information. For example location-based services, car navigation systems, geo-information markets or weather forecasts see this as a great opportunity to flourish.
Charging for public data usually doesn’t benefit the public bodies in the economic sense. The EU ““Pricing of Public Sector Information Study” (2011) found that in half of the cases, revenues from public sector information constitutes less than 1% of the public bodies’entire budget.
Lowering the barriers and opening up data has positive impact:
In those cases where public sector bodies (PSBs) moved to marginal and zero cost charging or cost-recovery that is limited to re-use facilitation costs only, the number of re-users increased by between 1,000% and 10,000%; lowering charges may also attract new types of re-users.
All case studies where PSBs have lowered their prices demonstrate that demand volumes expand strongly with increases of up to 7,000%.
Once re-use facilitation processes are properly organized, they become sub-routines within the administration bodies and become part of public task-funded activities at no extra cost.
Zero cost pricing has the additional advantage that transaction costs like administrative costs, such as invoicing, and costs related to the monitoring of compliance with license arrangements, decrease significantly.
“Data is gold. We have a gold mine in public administrations. Let’s start mine it,” said EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said during a press conference in Brussels.
The notion that making data available and serving re-users is a core public task is accelerating and supporting the shift to opening up government data in the EU. More details on the benefits and weaknesses of this process can be found in the EU papers “Pricing of Public Sector Information Study” and “Open data – An engine for innovation, growth and transparent governance“.